Financial crime is a crime against financial and/or material resources, involving the unlawful conversion of the ownership of property (belonging to another person or organisation) for one’s personal use and benefit.
Financial crimes may involve fraud (cheque fraud, credit card fraud, mortgage fraud, medical fraud, corporate fraud, securities fraud, bank fraud, payment (point of sale) fraud, health care fraud, theft, scams or confidence tricks, tax evasion, bribery, embezzlement, identity theft (impersonation), money laundering and forgery/counterfeiting (including the production of counterfeit money and consumer’s goods)). It may also involve additional criminal acts, such as computer crime, elder abuse (illegal diversion pension fund is a good example), burglary, armed robbery.
It may be carried out by individuals, corporations or by organised crime groups. Victims may include individuals, corporations, government and the entire public. Neither Africa as a continent nor Nigeria as a country can claim innocent in any of above mentioned financial frauds.
In this discussion, we shall see just very few of too many examples of financial crimes in some African countries, how they have influenced negatively, the strive for development in Africa as a continent and the countries in her. We will also consider some of the ways to overcome such challenges to advance African course for development.
The gross negative impacts of public funds embezzlement and other financial frauds on the development of the African economies cannot be overemphasised. In almost if not all the African countries, millions and billions of the US Dollar meant for human and infrastructural development and maintenance of already existing ones are been diverted into private purses, leaving the people, social amenities and their maintenance they are meant for, in a devastating and sympathetic state.
Between 2012 and 2013, the news of how Abdulrasheed Maina embezzled tens of billions of Nigeria Naira, meant for pensioners took the headlines of printing and electronic media in Nigeria while many elderly citizens who retired from the force or civil services were left to suffer and die untimely because of lack of means of sustenance. Many pensioners have died while pursuing their pension. Such ugly event has discouraged those who are in the service from putting in their best to their duties which in effect impact negatively to national development.
The fund from the PTDF meant to be invested in the energy sector during Obasanjo regime, was nowhere to be found. The accusing fingers were pointing at the former President Obasanjo and his vice, Atiku Abubakar of having hands in the sudden disappearance of the fund. Even at a stage, Atiku was indicated but that was a time he was having political tussle with his boss. Today, the inadequate power supply has dealt and is still dealing with our economy negatively. How will development come when the fund meant for the power sector improvement was embezzled by the people in authority and the nation is allowed to run a generator economy, which has increased the cost of production, discouraged young investors, sent packing many industries to other countries?
Former State governor like James Ibori of Delta State who embezzled £50 million, trail and convicted in the United Kingdom, Alamieyesie of Bayelsa State who has been trailed, convicted, property (some) confiscated, some of his disclosed accounts freezed and had finished serving his jail term, Chimaraoke Nnamani of Enugu State, his trial seems to be forgotten (though unlike his colleagues who took theirs abroad, he used some of his to establish telecommunication company called Rainbownet, Radio station called Cosmo fm, private college and university in his own state in Enugu, though privately owned by him, created lots of employment, thereby added to the economy, but the fund used was from the public purse). It was once exposed during his tenure as the governor by one of his closest ally who had problem with him, that he did store money in the overhead tanks in his house at his town Agbani; the former speakers of House of Representatives Patricia Eteh (N26 billion renovation fraud) and Demiji Bankole cars purchase contract fraud which saw him fought his colleagues in the House and promoted acrimony.
Former vice chancellor of Federal University Owerri/former Minister of Education Fabian Osuji and former Senate President Adolphus Wabara, bribery scandals were just few examples of financial crimes carried out by political and non-political leaders in Nigeria which have derailed the nation the much needed resources for human and infrastructural development which are mend to facilitate nation development. The former Inspector General of Police Tafa Balogun, was notorious in Nigeria for embezzling the fund meant for the force which saw him forced out of office. His actions created some sadness among the officers in the force which might have affected them negatively in discharging their duties of protecting lives and property because it is said that a hungry man is an angry man.
Foreigners are not left out in such financial fraudulent acts, Hallibuton was cut having been involved in a systematically organised bribing of Nigeria former heads of state from Ibrahim Babangida regime to Olusegun Obasanjo regime, in order to allow them have uncontrolled sole access to Nigeria Natural Liquidified Gas (NNLG), while some of the perpetrators were trailed and convicted in the court in the United States, Nigeria Government, closed its case against the Hallibuton in the wake of Jonathan’s declaration of interest to contest for 2011 presidential election. Imagine the great exploits and the huge amount in millions in US Dollar and in billions if not trillions when converted into Nigeria Naira, which they used to bribe the Shameless heads of States.
The amount might have been even more than national annual budget if put together. Most recently, a Spaniard and a director in Hormipresa Nigeria Ltd, a construction company, Mr. Jose Marin Lopez-Pepe, had concluded plan to leave Nigeria with £1.66 billion on (Euros) meant for the purchase of materials for construction, on the contract awarded to the company by the Imo State Government. Thanks to the Chief Executive Officer of the company, Mr. Emmanuel Emenike whose timely petition to the police led to his arrest in Lagos.
Private sector is never an angel in the matter. Sometime ago, Cecilia Ibru of former Oceanic Bank, Erastus Akingbola of former Intercontinental Bank (N47.1 billion case) and many other managers have been charged to court for financial fraud. Recently, the minister of Finance declared that Federal Government uncovers N58 billion unremitted revenue hidden by unscrupulous bank managers and collaborators in the government ministries, departments and agencies. She further in a separate occasion, stated that another N34 billion out of N58 billion missing, has been recovered from illegal bank accounts by government ministries, departments and agencies.
In the Gambia, Justice Wowo (a Nigerian) and the acting Chief of Gambia, was cut with the minister of Justice of the Gambia demanding N12.5 million bribes which was later reduced to N2.5 million from a Dutch company to persuade justice on land case in favour of the foreigner to the detriment of the state.
In Cameroon, the Government issued international arrest warrant for former Public Works Minister, Ambassa Zang (now in France for asylum), for embezzling billions meant for rehabilitation of Wouri and Sanga bridges. He was also accused with two others of similar case on fund meant for the renovation of Mefou and Afamba roads. Joseph Tchakounte was on Thursday, July 11, 2013, sentenced to 20 years imprisonment by special criminal court in Younde for involving in embezzling FCFA 81 million ($61,000 US Dollar) when he was the financial clerk in Bekoko. The former minister of basic education, Mrs. Haman Adama, refunded the FCFA 369 million she and some of her collaborators were accused of embezzling while she was still was prison, Iya Mohamed, the General Manager of the National Cotton Production Company (SODECOTON) charged of embezzling FCFA 13 billion, pleaded not guilty in the court.
In Kenya between April 2012 and April 2013, the country’s bank lost more than $17 million. Investigation showed that Tech-Savvy employees stole at least $17.64 million (ksh 1.5 billion). The investigators managed to recover only $6.2 million (ksh 530 million).
During preparation for France 2012 presidential election, it was uncovered that former Lybian Leader Murmur Gaddafi financed the part of former president Nicholas Sakocy election. Also, the former Egyptian leader who is in jail now, was accused of having some illegal accounts abroad.
These are just few of what is going on in African continent. Such criminal practices have derailed the continent of the scarce resources needed for development while majority of African populations are dying in hunger, living far below the United Nations living standard. Unemployment, strike, decaying infrastructure, poor or no health facilities, lack of education facilities, lack of access to clean water which has become great challenge to the continent and has led to death of many resulting from infections from unclean water. The frustration created rebellion against the state, poor quality of school graduates, untimely deaths, illegal mass illiteracy, mining, vandalism, to mention but a few.
From the look of things, the so called EFCC seems to be the most corrupt agency because while other agencies fear that the leaders can pursue them with EFCC when they offend them, EFCC personnel, has no such fear because no agency monitor them. They seize people belongings, take it, or to make it look legal, auction such things to themselves using false number.
Nigeria police is too corrupt, any agency, recruiting its staff from the police, will most likely eat, drink, breath and bath in corruption. This is the case with EFCC. The government of Nigeria, if really serious to fight crime (financial), they must look for people who will do what Dora Akunyili did in NAFDAC. Highly Moral individuals who want their good work to be seen by the public must be recruited in the agency and government should give them free hand, no untouchables, and the government also should give them total support. There should be a non-governmental organisation that should be set to monitor, evaluate and made recommendation of the work of the agency.
THE JUDICIARY SYSTEM
The Nigeria legal system managers, those in legal profession, many of them are corrupt and most at times, dance to the tune of politicians. Just imagine James Ibori who was discharged in Nigeria court, was convicted in the UK court and pleaded, laundering £50 million. The Nigeria lawyers, magistrates, Judges become active when they see helpless poor individual who still goat or mere tense of thousand, they will pose well to sentence such helpless person to ten years imprisonment and will invite all the mass media agencies to come and cover it. In some cases, the accused is innocent of the crime but lack support. The same Nigeria courts, immediately they heard that the South African court had sentenced Henry Okah to prison, within few days, they hurriedly sentenced his brother.
Nigeria Judiciary is highly corrupt and the pride they always fill has overtaken the ethics of their job from them.
For the issue of financial crimes to be overcome, there should be effective reforms in Judiciary system of Nigeria. The delay in cases which is the tactics they use should be dealt with. This is why some times EFCC would blame the court system for poor performance.
Looking at the financial crimes cases in Cameroon highlighted in the discussion, one would see effective action taken against the criminals and suspects, which has even led some of them to refund the government. Some of such are worth emulating in the entire African nations. The law should be re-enacted to be proactive against financial crimes.
HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVITIES
Actors in this area should know that embezzlement of public fund is the abuse of citizens’ rights to enjoy such facilities and services which such money embezzled are meant for.
They should strongly stand and fight against such criminals and put pressure on them, the agencies in charge of such cases and the Judiciary system in order to ensure that justice is done without delayed.
GOVERNMENT AGENCIES, DEPARTMENTS AND MINISTRIES
Many of the financial crimes do involve actors in the government circle such as the ministries, departments and agencies, without whom the politicians hardly succeed in stealing. In the course of aiding their political leaders to steal, they also pocket theirs. For example, one involving the senior civil and public servants are most at times facilitated by their junior staff
Therefore, for effective overcoming of financial frauds in Nigeria and Africa in general, there should be an independent monitoring body whose responsibilities should be to monitor every activities carried out by the civil and public servants, especially the junior ones because they are the one directed by the boss to carry out such shady deals for them. There should be manual and digitalised surveillance of their activities. In this way, they can be caught in the act and dealt with as the law permits, thereby discouraging others.
Many at times, cases of fraudulent practices that has link to natural resources in Africa involve foreigners especially the Europeans, Asians, Americans (few) and people from Middle East.
The African human rights activists should propose to their colleagues at the global level to fight against international financial frauds, propose a charter in UNO that will prohibit any nation from being involved in shady financial deals in the international level. There should be harsh punishment to such offenders to discourage others. The host country of such foreigners should monitor seriously to get hold of them whenever they want to embark on the financial crimes and they should be allowed to take its full course on such person or company irrespective of international pressure.
At individuals’ level, we should realise the shame we are putting ourselves into, considering the public who will suffer the effect of such financial fraud in the social system. We know that bad rocks contributes to road accidents and people do die, underserviced aircraft may crash land in an airport, where fund meant for fire service facilities have been stolen; that woman died in the course of delivery and also the sick because of little dilapidated or no health facilities in the hospital; unequipped educational system, produce unequipped graduates who will destroy rather than create in the economy. If we consider such and uphold our moral values and allow our conscience to prevail, things will be better for everyone as African citizen and fast-track the long awaited development.
In conclusion, African nations are not secured to develop until they rise up to meet the challenges of financial crimes crippling our continent. Everyone must wake up from his/her slumber. Let every African work with good conscience and embrace individual reorientation.